Iron Man

I was listening to Black Sabbath’s second  album  in the car the other day, and Eleanor  piped up from  the back seat:

“This is the same song you played yesterday.”


After a little bit she went on, “I like this song.”


“Mmm.  It’s good.  You can  dance  to it.”

I picked up the  CD cover and looked at the name of the song.  It was War Pigs.  It certainly is a cracking  song, but I really can’t imagine Eleanor  dancing  to it.  

By a strange coincidence I picked up Ted Hughes’ children’s story Iron  Man  the other  day at the library and  then realised that Iron Man  is also a track on the Sabbath album.  Of the two I think I prefer the Ted Hughes version.  I wondered if the song was based on  the book (the  book is 1968 and the song  is 1970), but I can find  no such link although they are  both about gigantic robots that have mixed relations with man.

As with any early(ish) work by Hughes it is always a little bit depressing  to read his dedications.  Iron Man is dedicated to Frieda and  Nicholas, his children  with Plath.

Wikipedia tells me  that Iron Man by Sabbath is about:

 a man who time travels into the future of the world, and sees the apocalypse. In the process of returning to the present, he is turned into steel by a magnetic field. He is rendered mute, unable verbally to warn people of his time of the impending destruction. His attempts to communicate are ignored and mocked. This causes Iron Man to become angry, and have his revenge on mankind, causing the destruction seen in his vision.

Well, if you say so.  What I get is some vague  schtick about a pissed off robot.   I like Black Sabbath, and  they at least  try and write about  things rather than just rambling about Satan or the size of their genitals, but the thing I really like about  them is that they are obviously a band of crack musicians who are making  music that they love (listen  to Faeries Wear Boots or Rat Salad).  You get the feeling, especially on the first album, that these guys are playing  for themselves and don’t  really give a stuff  if the  world notices.

Naturally the world did notice.  I suppose Sabbath are a heavy metal band,  but someone  forgot to tell the  drummer who keeps switching  time and  doing  jazz fills; or the  bass  player  who would seem to be  trying  out for some kind of  funk band.  That’s the thing  about music or writing  or film  that is good: it is unconcerned with what the audience  thinks.

Which brings this post about  very little to  the beginning  of the  essay Self Reliance  by Emerson.  It is a long  quote, but  I humbly beg you read it through because there is a lot of wisdom in it. 

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

To thine ownself be true.

6 thoughts on “Iron Man”

  1. I think it’s about writing, but it really should be about playing music, or any artistic endeavour.

  2. Could be a mis-quote from Avatar,
    “To thine own self be blue” ?

    I listened to Faeries Wear Boots.
    Your ears must be substantialy different from mine. I can’t really detect music. Noise yes, but harmonious sounds no.
    Ah well thank goodness for differences, it stops life from being too boring.

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